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The Lorsch Rotulus
A unique Carolinian document
Frankfurt/Main, Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek, Ms. Barth. 179, Lorsch, 3rd quarter of the 9th century/11th century



Further Pictures


Our Rotulus provides the City and University Library of Frankfurt with a truly extraordinary document in many respects. The viewer is fascinated not only by its outer form –it constitutes the only liturgical book roll that has come down to us from the Carolingian period – but also by the absolutely unusual number of Saints mentioned in the Litany (534), and finally by its exquisite decorative apparatus.

A chef-d’œuvre of Carolingian art

The manuscript dates from the 3rd quarter of the 9th century and was produced in the scriptorium of Lorsch. Evidence of its origin is not only found in the style of the extremely decorative and colourful interlaced ornament running along the borders over the entire length of the parchment roll, but also in the emphasis the Litany places on Nazarius, the local patron saint of Lorsch. This sequence of Saints was written across the entire front side of the Rotulus in three columns, with gold and silver letters enhancing the importance of certain names. The four texts placed on its reverse side (a Votive Mass, prayers intended for Mass, a directory listing treasures and books of the Abbey dedicated to the Redeemer, and an Officium Stellae) were added in the mid-11th century.
This manuscript now kept in Frankfurt, a city which in 1994 celebrated the fact that it was documented historically for the first time 1200 years ago, is of special significance because Charlemagne’s son, Louis II the German, and his family are listed in the Litany.
Louis was founder of the Abbey of the Redeemer and it is quite possible that the Rotulus once belonged to the first important items kept in this abbey of the Carolingian Palatinate in Frankfurt, perhaps originally commissioned by Louis the German.

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